What are vitamins, and why does our body need them?
Vitamins are organic products that are essential for a range of functions in the body, including regulation of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.
Vitamins are categorised by water- soluble and fat- soluble. Water soluble vitamins cannot be stored within the body and they need to be replaced on a daily basis in the food we eat.
Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and vitamins such as A, D, E and K are included in this category. Although our bodies can store these vitamins we still have to consume them regularly.
is needed for healthy skin and tissue, and immune function. It can be found in liver, cheese, dark green vegetables and carrots.
helps regulate our energy metabolism and can be found in bread, potatoes, meat and whole grain cereals.
utilises energy from fats and protein and can be found in meat, milk and eggs.
is necessary for protein metabolism and can be found in potatoes, meat, vegetables, milk and fish.
is essential for our red blood cells and maintaining our nervous system and can be found in liver, milk, fish and eggs.
helps heal wounds and infections and protects the immune system it can be found in fresh fruit and vegetables.
is essential for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and also helps to regulate calcium in our body, it can be found in eggs, milk, breakfast cereals and margarine.
helps to protect our cell membranes and the nervous and immune systems, it can be found in vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts and green vegetables.
helps to maintain our energy and helps with blood clotting and can be found in liver, meat, potato and cereals.
helps with production of red blood cells and our nervous system and can be found in raw green vegetables.
Stress, smoking, pollution and vigorous exercise can all cause oxidative damage to the body through production of free radicals. Free radicals can react with cells in the body, such as cell membranes, proteins and DNA. Damaged cells do not function as efficiently and this may lead to increased susceptibility to disease and altered appearance. Antioxidants, such as Vitamins A, C and E can react with free radicals before they damage body cells (DAA,2007). By eating foods high in antioxidants, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, wholegrains and fruits, you can help preserve your body systems and long-term health!
How do I know I'm getting enough vitamins?
In general, if you are eating a healthy well balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and a balance from the main food groups then you will be receiving the correct amount of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Certain life stages will increase your requirement for nutrients, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Increased intake from foods is therefore recommended at these times and supplementation may be required.
Active people may need extra vitamins and minerals to meet the demands of exercise. This does not necessarily mean that supplements are necessary, but special care must be taken to ensure your diet is varied and includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. Remember - at least 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day.